Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (Review)

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Image from twitter.com/kendricklamar

I got, I got, I got, I got stumped during the first listen itself and I was traveling in a crowded Delhi metro. The stories Kendrick tells on this one captivates you, captures your imagination to the extent that the crowd of a metro doesn’t really exist for you. Take a note, this isn’t a “Butterfly” or a “GKMC”, this is Kendrick Lamar Duckworth’s own piece of work about himself and his perception. Perception is a very important concept of the album. A lot of it is open to perception for the listener. Kendrick doesn’t really force all the issues on you but gives a personal opinion on them.

Another concept or should I have said feature of this album is the inconsistency. Not only we see it in the tracklist, we see it in the placing of beats, his choice of flows and topics throughout the album. The first take away after the first listen I had (like many would have had) was how he completes the circle with the end of the song “DUCKWORTH” and his first lines on “BLOOD”. Definitely a goosebump inducing moment. The album shines in many such subtleties, nooks and corners that keep one hooked till a really good number of listens.

There are points that reminisce me of his previous work like his “need for water” on “LUST” takes me back to “Sing about me, Dying of thirst” from “GKMC” even though his thirst atleast on the face value is for something very different. Other than such simple points its a very different album with a very different sound. The beats here are served to us by a very interesting range of producers that give the album it’s Sonic appeal and structure. We have Kendrick’s frequent producer Sounwave on a number of tracks, Mike Will Made It on “DNA”, “HUMBLE” and “XXX”, DJ dahi, The Alchemist, Bekon among others. The Sonic structure of this one not at all clearly defined and consistent which is very unlike his previous works. But it’s in these inconsistencies that this one revels as a experience. The energy in beats like the ones in “DNA” make for a really lovely experience. The features are less but all leave their Mark on the album. Rihanna for me was the better part of the song on “LOYALTY” which to me is one of the weaker tracks on this one. Bono plays a very interesting part on the ever changing, aggressive and brooding “XXX” on which Kendrick goes into various cadences to express his emotions which range from a threat “Let somebody touch my mama, touch my sister, touch my woman, touch my daddy, touch my niece, touch my nephew, touch my niece” or “I’ll chip a nigga little bitbof nothing” to concerned and reflective “The great American flag, is wrapped and dragged with explosives”.

He is also insecure on this one, accepting his shortcomings. On “FEAR” he takes us through his mind and how he was afraid of various things and also of his perception in the society. This track comes out as a stand out moment in an already outstanding project. This opens us to Kendrick’s world like some of his best tracks have. Storytelling is the strong point of this album. Storytelling is the aspect that makes this album a memorable project.

Yes, this album has some moments which might not be as outstanding or a bit of lull. I am talking about “LUST”, “LOVE” and “LOYALTY”. The 3 Ls this album takes. Well the tracks aren’t bad. I just felt Kendrick could have added more on the topic Menton the tracks. Other thing that takes a little back from the album is his singing on some places for example on “GOD”. At other points this album shocks you, gives you chill out tracks, bangers, stories you never expected to hear and all this by creating a commendable listening experience.

It’s tracks like “DNA” that we will remember this for where he points out everything from his strengths to shortcomings as part of his “DNA” for tracks like “FEAR” and most importantly for “DUCKWORTH”, the closing track that ends up defining the album and makes us familiar with a new chapter of Kendrick’s life. After all it’s his experiences that gave him the fire to come out as probably the greatest rapper of this generation. He has nothing left to prove. Not at all. After the projects he has released till now he has a firm grip on the throne. He even sold 600k first week.

Overall this is a very strong album, an experience to behold. It might end up being the best album of the year and is surely going to be a highlight of the year when we come to the end of this year.

“I was taking a walk the other day”

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Bling and Sling 2: Drake, Oddisee, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Gorillaz.

Hello Everyone, it has been quite a while now since the last time I talked about any thing over here. Well life happens and there are somethings that one wishes to avoid but those things still do happen. Moving on, over this period we have had a lot of released during this period and as always some of it pulls me towards it everyday since its release the rest I try to avoid or have been indifferent towards it.

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Starting with Drake. Drake o Drake, this guy comes out with album calls it a playlist a fucking 22 track playlist and still has bigger first week numbers than any other artist who released an album (and called it an album too). Well, him calling “More Life” a playlist was one of the reasons that kept me away from the whole thing, I saw the track-list and felt like well that’s a huge number of tracks, is he not confident enough to call it an album? Or is this just another marketing strategy from him? But then finally I stopped being a sceptic and put this on. He starts is well and beats are enjoyable overall. “Passion fruit” is good, “Free Smoke” is good, “Skepta Interlude”, “4422”, “Ice Melts” are among some of the good tracks over here. The biggest thing that I took away or should I say enjoyed the most are the features. This has a nice array of features woven together throughout the album be it Young Thug, Travi$ Scott, Quavo, Sampha, Giggs or Black Coffee none of them sound wasted. But one must say how much this album needed these features to be actually listenable given how long this was because personally I don’t feel Drake does that good of a job over here. He doesn’t really hold the album together. I have heard that this is called as “Better than Views” by many but what I felt that this is Drake just skimming whatever he can from this particular sound. Not the most interesting piece of music to get your head and ears into. I do believe that had this been released as a proper album the ratings would have fallen down. I initially wanted to write a complete review for this but it being a playlist kept me from doing that.

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Next up is Oddisee. Well, actually I heard this album, The Iceberg, before I heard Drake’s and let this be told that both are very different in their approach towards Hip Hop. This was first album I heard from Oddisee and I am very happy that I gave this album a spin. I heard this for the first time when I was travelling and I think it is good to explore the unknowns when you travel and also that I would preferred the window seat instead of the aisle for listening this. I liked it as an introduction to this guy. I love the instrumentals here, the sounds are recorded by a live band for this album and it gives a very rich feel to it.  The features are very limited but to the point. The album is short, concise and to the point as it is just 12 tracks long and has interesting topics. The important take away is how smoothly this guy raps. This is his 11th studio album and for sure I am gonna hear his earlier work and look out for whatever he comes up with in the future.

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Kendrick Lamar!!! Well guess what now this guy who considered as being underground a few years ago now has a Billboard top 5 hit single. The only reason one must step in the game is to be the greatest and Kendrick is hopping no running towards the crown of being the Greatest of All Time (The GOAT). Will he run out of breathe? No one knows. But he made a point with the release of “The Heart Part IV” that he is not gonna hold back. He is going to reach for it. Kendrick is important because he keeps the things interesting, he tries new things, now that he is famous he can give a platform to others like him, he can be a platform himself and most importantly he never fails to astonish us. Just as he says that there are astonishment and accomplishment. The one I started this post with, Drake, has accomplished a lot, probably more than any active rapper has but how many times has he astonished you, probably never and maybe he isn’t even aiming for that he knows the guns in his arsenal and he knows how to use them to full capacity but he ain’t got no tanks or bombs to drop on us. But this guy Kendrick, he does. With “Humble” he did it again. The first single from his album that drops in a couple of days he seems to be going for a different direction than before, a weird kind of pop rap it sounds like but I am sure that this won’t be the signature sound of the whole album. “Humble” is as pop as Kendrick gets and he has everything in the right place over there. So sit down and be ready for April 14th.

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I still play Blonde regularly, when its night, I am on a ride to some place and a cool breeze is swaying past me, this is my go to album. I didn’t expect Frank Ocean to drop much stuff this year but he has already dropped two tracks. First was “Chanel” which is among my favourite singles from this year. “Chanel” is a track that will hold its own when put up against the best tracks on “Blonde”. On this Frank again showcases his ability to connect emotionally to the listener on a level that the song feels tailor-made for one’s soul. He knows how to peel layers of his soul to reach ours as he sings over the slow piano on this track. It’s always good to hear an artist try something new and still sound very comfortable on it and Frank achieves exactly that on this track that grows a lot on further listens. A similar feat is achieved by him on the track “Biking” which features Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator. The song features a very unorthodox verse from Jay-Z, in-fact everything about this song is unorthodox. The structure is so different from what makes a everyday song that it surprises the listener. It’s very easy to make a mess out of such a song but they use the chaos over here as a ladder and come out with a very enjoyable product that puts one’s mind to comfort. Simple pianos, guitars and percussion are very reminiscent of Blonde and the verses over here are an extension to his emotions on Blonde. I didn’t enjoy the song that much on first listen but now its a good one to vibe too. “When’s the last time I asked for some help that I couldn’t get from nobody else” this is true for everyone who lives.

Gorillaz!!. Yeah this has been an enjoyable period of music. March and April gave me a lot to enjoy to musically. “Andromeda” was the first track I heard. The song is minimalist but also very colourful. The song feels exactly like a galaxy, a galaxy with vibrant textures. The moment it starts it puts it puts you in the centre of a club, where everyone is dancing but there is strange vibe to the club that you feel the need to explore and D.R.A.M with his vocals adds a lot of emotion and feel to the theme of the song. The second track I heard was “Let me out” featuring Pusha T and Mavis Staples. The strange collab feels like a puzzle piece fixed to perfection on this track with hard drums and minor pianos. The vibe is anxious, dramatic and yet puts you in the club yet again. In the meantime, I am also enjoying the Lorde singles a lot, on “Liability” Lorde has come out with a very definitive and creative piece of songwriting that puts me in my excited shoes when it comes to her next album.

There was a lot of music released in the last few weeks but there’s only so much one can write about. So tell me how you felt about these tracks and what are your favourite tracks from the recent past.

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